The efforts of our residents encourage us to work harder and to achieve better results
The Mayor of Ħal Safi Johan Mula speaks about subsidiarity, EU projects, protection of cultural heritage and tourism
- January 22, 2019 14:30
- Aseniya Dimitrova
Johan Mula was born in 1975 in Birkirkara. Graduated in Public Administration, he has been a deputy Mayor and currently holds the position of Mayor of Safi as member of the Labour party. He is married with two children and alongside his services in the Local Council, he holds the position of a Customs officer with the Customs Department.
Find full biography here.
Mr Mula, how would you describe the village of Ħal Safi and why tourists should come here?
The village of Ħal Safi is situated in the Southern part of Malta covering an area of 2.3 square km and bordering with the villages of Kirkop and Zurrieq. The population of the village is only around 2,200 inhabitants which makes Ħal Safi one of the smallest villages in Malta. The village of Ħal Safi is mostly renowned for its very peaceful and quiet environment making it easily comparable to the small villages situated on our sister island of Gozo. Moreover, the village has a considerable rural area as well. Therefore, tourists who are looking for this type of quiet environment while sightseeing our beautiful heritage and other places of interest and maybe enjoying a walk in the rural part of our village, are more than welcome to visit Ħal Safi. Furthermore, as a small village, nearly all the places of interest are at a walking distance from each other which makes it easier for tourists to roam around and enjoy the heritage.
Indeed, the locality of Ħal Safi benefits from a large archaeological and historical heritage, such as the Chapel of Saint Mary, which dates before the XVIth century or the Sir Alexander Ball’s Garden, two centuries old. How accessible are these treasures to the general public and how do you promote them?
The Chapel of St. Mary belongs to the local parish and is opened from Monday to Friday between 8am till Noon and from 3pm to 6pm. Sir Alexander Ball’s Garden is administered by the Local Council and is open daily from 9am to 3pm. However, for a more detailed explanation of these two mentioned historical places and the other heritage of our village, through local travel agencies we do organize community based tourism excursions which are specifically designed for tourists who want a more detailed experience of our heritage and culture. Moreover, through these community based excursions, tourists have the opportunity to interact with local villagers by, for instance, enjoying a traditional dinner in our band club, dedicated to St. Paul whilst interacting with members of the club. Furthermore, these excursions include a detailed explanation of the culture of bee-keeping by our local bee-keeper in Sir Alexander Ball Garden where bees are nurtured and therefore tourists can have a hands-on experience of this tradition.
Following this line of thought, heritage conservation can come at a great cost. Could you tell us what actions are in place for the conservation of the natural and cultural assets of the municipality, including the European projects in which you are a partner?
I agree with you that heritage conservation comes at a great cost. For this reason, our municipality works very hard to obtain funds and applies for various schemes issued by the EU and also by the Central Government with the aim to maintain and restore our heritage sites. For instance, very recently we have applied and consequently been awarded EU funds which are administered by the GAL Xlokk foundation of which we are members. These funds will be used for the restoration of parts of the wall surrounding Sir Alexander Ball’s garden and also for the embellishment of the interior part of the same garden. In this way we not only conserve this garden but also make it more attractive to tourists. Moreover, through the community based tourism excursions mentioned before, we also raise funds from a contribution paid by the tourists themselves, funds which are subsequently used for the day to day general upkeep of the garden itself. Furthermore, last year we also applied under a scheme issued by the Central Government in which the facade of one of our historical places, the Parish Centre which dates back to the Knights of St. John period, is presently going through restoration by the Restoration Directorate of the Ministry of Culture. In the past, the municipality also managed to obtain other sponsorship funds to restore some of the niches found in our village.
You have long been involved in the local government of Ħal Safi. Could you tell us more about the initiatives and policies you are proud of, including the previewed ones?
I have served for 3 years as deputy mayor from 2012 to 2015 and have been elected to serve as the Mayor of our locality since 2015. I mentioned before the community based tourism initiative which am very proud to say that I have been working on since I was deputy mayor, and now our community is reaping the benefits of this initiative. In fact, from a village which normally viewed very few tourists, through this initiative we had more than 3000 German tourists visiting our village during last year only.
Another project of which I am very proud is the documentary commissioned by our municipality in 2015. This documentary is 1 hour 10 minutes long and features the entire history, culture and traditions of our village. It took us more than 2 years of work before we could finally launch this documentary on DVD in English and Maltese languages. The documentary was aired on the national TV station and on other local TV stations as well. We received very positive feedback about the quality of this documentary. The ultimate aim is to promote our beautiful village as much as possible.
I am now very much looking forward for the works that are going to be carried out in Sir Alexander Ball’s garden in the coming weeks thanks to the EU funds that we managed to obtain. Moreover, I am very proud to say that during this legislature all the rural roads of our village shall be asphalted, some of them through the EU funds and others through the Central Government funds.
Please tell us more about the actions, undertaken by the administration to reduce the environmental impact, in the field of waste-reduction, recycling and awareness-raising. Please tell us about the GreenPak Award and what it means to you.
The Safi municipality offers a wide range of services aimed to encourage our residents to reduce waste and to re-cycle more. With this regard, our contractors collect the re-cycled waste (plastic, metal and paper) every Tuesday and the organic waste every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Glass is collected every first Friday of the month and used clothes are collected every first Wednesday of the month. These are all door to door services and are also free of charge. Moreover, in a particular area of our locality we do also have 1 set of recycle bins and a clothes bank. The municipality also offers the service of bulky refuse collection every Wednesday and Saturday which is free of charge as well. Furthermore, at the municipality’s premises we also collect used batteries and lamps, expired medicine, and electronic waste.
Apart from all these services, we also try to raise awareness through promotional material distributed in every household, and through the social media as well, and also by organising educational activities aimed to enhance the environmental awareness amongst our residents. We do also work in close cooperation with Wasteserve, which is the national company responsible for organizing, managing and operating integral systems for waste management.
All these efforts were finally rewarded and we were very pleased and honoured when last year, during the Green Pak awards, our municipality was awarded the GreenPak award for the village which collected the highest number of used batteries per capita. This is obviously thanks to the efforts of our residents which thus encourages our municipality to work harder in order to achieve better results in the future.
Finally, how would you evaluate the necessity of a portal that brings together the best practices of European municipalities and aims to keep the citizens informed about the latest developments in local policies, such as TheMayor.EU? How can our platform be useful to local administrations?
Sharing of best practices, innovative and creative ideas will definitely be very useful to every European municipality. In this way, it is possible to assess how other municipalities are working and what new initiatives and policies are being carried out by them, and consequently try to implement such good practices and initiatives in their own locality. Therefore, in my opinion, such portal will prove to be very helpful to all municipalities. Moreover, such portal will keep the European citizens well informed about new initiatives, not only in their locality but in many other European localities as well. Consequently, European citizens, through this acquired information, shall also be in a position to forward suggestions to their own municipality thus putting the principle of subsidiarity in practice.
Local Council of Ħal Safi, Photo by Johan Mula